Marco Rubio’s Miami Vice

Don’t feel bad, Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. We found someone probably as corrupt as you to run for president while you’re in prison — Sen. Marco Rubio of Miami, Florida:

As Mr. Rubio has ascended in the ranks of Republican politics, Mr. Braman has emerged as a remarkable and unique patron. He has bankrolled Mr. Rubio’s campaigns. He has financed Mr. Rubio’s legislative agenda. And, at the same time, he has subsidized Mr. Rubio’s personal finances, as the rising politician and his wife grappled with heavy debt and big swings in their income.
A detailed review of their relationship shows that Mr. Braman, 82, has left few corners of Mr. Rubio’s world untouched. He hired Mr. Rubio, then a Senate candidate, as a lawyer; employed his wife to advise the Braman family’s philanthropic foundation; helped cover the cost of Mr. Rubio’s salary as an instructor at a Miami college; and gave Mr. Rubio access to his private plane.

The money has flowed both ways. Mr. Rubio has steered taxpayer funds to Mr. Braman’s favored causes, successfully pushing for an $80 million state grant to finance a genomics center at a private university and securing $5 million for cancer research at a Miami institute for which Mr. Braman is a major donor.

Rubio seems pretty convinced that this is all above-board because he doesn’t try to hide any of his extensive campaign finance ties and personal (financial) relationships to Braman. I guess that’s the John Roberts school of non-corruption: If it’s fully transparent and there’s no explicit quid pro quo of money for favors/contracts, then it must not be corrupt.

However, it’s not even clear that there isn’t some kind of quid pro quo, formal or otherwise. It’s not pay-to-play, but Rubio certainly seems willing and eager to play as a thank you for all the paying.

“What is the conflict?” [Rubio] asked. “I don’t ever recall Norman Braman ever asking for anything for himself.” He acknowledged that Mr. Braman had approached him about state aid for projects, such as funding for cancer research, but said that he had supported the proposals on their merits.
Mr. Braman acknowledged seeking the occasional “small favor” from Mr. Rubio’s Senate office. There was the daughter of the woman who does his nails, Mr. Braman recalled, who had an immigration problem, and the student from Tampa who wanted a shot at military school. In both cases, he said, Mr. Rubio’s staff was quick to respond. (Mr. Rubio’s staff said it had decided not to recommend the Tampa student.)

Um, ok. Whatever this is, maybe it’s not strictly speaking illegal, but it’s certainly against the spirit of ethics and anti-corruption laws and principles. It’s disproportionate and narrow favoritism for a specific wealthy benefactor.

And I guess Rubio would probably suggest he’s not the only one doing this kind of thing and just happens to be one of the least affluent and most indebted high-profile U.S. politicians (and certainly is one of the least cash-flush presidential candidates on a personal basis).

There’s a lot more in the NY Times article (quoted above) about how much Rubio has benefited from Braman’s support. The latter has been saying he was going to make Rubio president since before he was even in the U.S. Senate — and he’s paid for most of the steps to get him close to that goal.


Oregon governor resigns in widening ethics scandal

In the interest of fairness (since I write about Republican governor scandals regularly), and because Federal subpoenas have been issued, I should acknowledge that Oregon’s Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber has resigned from office in a fairly bizarre ethics scandal that has been growing since just before he was elected last November to a fourth four-year term (his second and third terms were non-consecutive).

In early October 2014, the initial revelation was that his fiancée — whom he had been dating for about a decade before getting engaged — had once had an illegal Green-Card Marriage to an immigrant in the 1990s, which he claimed not to know about. The crime was past its statute of limitations by the time she was forced to admit it. At first I wondered why this fact was relevant enough for a journalist to investigate, because as violations of the law go, it’s not an egregious or dangerous one, so it just seemed sort of trashy (there was a lot of troubling emphasis on how many marriages she had had and when they had begun dating). But the hints of the bigger problem were starting to emerge, and they seem to have been what motivated reporters to look into her background in the first place.

That problem, which is now at the center of the state and Federal investigations, is that Kitzhaber’s fiancée had been drawing a lot of attention to herself and her romantic relationship, not just by claiming State First Lady status (with a desk in the governor’s offices) but by using that for influence-peddling. In other words, they probably only found the illegal sham marriage because she was making a lot of noise about being the First Lady (before marrying him) and having “access” to the governor, which she (allegedly) has been using to win consulting contracts. That’s a clear ethics law violation.

At the moment, it tentatively looks like Kitzhaber himself might have just shown extremely poor judgment (or turned a blind eye) on multiple fronts, but it’s starting to look pretty hard to see how these actions weren’t on some level visible and acceptable to him. In all likelihood, he was aware of some or all of the transgressions by his partner and failed to stop them or do anything.

After waffling back and forth for several days over the past week, Gov. Kitzhaber resigned on Friday, just a month into his fourth term, handing over the governorship to second-in-line Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, a Democrat, who will serve at least until a November 2016 Special Election is held, whether or not she runs for the job in her own right. She is relatively well known in some select national circles, particularly national LGBT political organizations, (and was probably already slated to seek higher office at some point) because she is openly bisexual, and there are very few out bi politicians in American offices. She is now the nation’s first out bi governor.

Carolina guvs, past and present, aim for McDonnell-level corruption

They should ironically name Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina the “Ethics Coast” — like the Space Coast but for launching massive corruption into the highest levels of state government:

In the months after receiving his $171,071 payout of stock from, [N.C. Gov. Pat] McCrory appointed the state’s banking director and a majority of the banking commissioners who regulate mortgage brokers.
That Jan. 30, the board voted to accelerate the vesting of McCrory’s 10,063 restricted shares of stock, valued on that date at $171,071, even though thousands of the shares were not due to vest for another 16 months.

Without the board’s action, the shares would have expired, making them worthless. founder and Chief Executive Officer Doug Lebda told the AP in an interview that the decision to accelerate the vesting of the shares for retiring board members is standard practice at the company.
McCrory’s total take of $185,509 from in 2013 far exceeded the $139,590 salary he earned as governor that year.

(Which is why Pat McCrory is a compassionate governor with a true sense of the plight of the non-plutocrat and the poor. Ok, now back to…)

[U.S. Rep. from South Carolina Mark] Sanford joined the board in April 2012 after finishing his term as South Carolina governor in a cloud of ethics questions. He had been forced to pay $74,000 to settle 37 state ethics charges, including using taxpayer funds to pay for flights to Argentina to visit his mistress.
All told, Sanford cleared $239,159 in stock, director’s fees and special dividends in his 13 months with, records show. Since then, Sanford has voted on financial regulations in Congress, where rank-and-file members are paid an annual salary of $174,000.

And I didn’t even bring up S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, who has her own special brand of ethics too.


The unbearable wifeness of being Mrs McDonnell

Bob-McDonnell-by-Gage_SkidmoreAh, Bob McDonnell, the once and former future Vice President of These United States. Now a retired Governor of Virginia and (as of today) 11-times-over Federal convict. His wife was also convicted soundly on similar charges.

You may recall past highlights from his corruption trial proceedings included refusing to take an amazing plea deal that would have spared his wife altogether from joining him in 14-indictment hell:

The Feds were even willing to offer an extremely generous — perhaps overly so — deal to former Gov. McDonnell that would have protected his wife entirely, even though she seems to have orchestrated much of the corruption and solicitations. All he had to do was plead guilty to one felony count and serve time (probably very little considering who he is). Yet he said no.

And so down she went with him. But, we were told, it was all part of a cunning plan! This marriage needed to look so awful (for the jury) that refusing to spare her the investigation was just the final step.

Ah Bobby McDonnell, your masterful and foolproof “my wife is so horrible and I hate her and she was only taking bribes because she was in love with the briber” defense strategy worked like … whatever the opposite of “a charm” is. Just how low did you go in an effort to slime her for your own failed exculpation? Let us consult the New York Times:

Mr. McDonnell, who carried his wife over the threshold of the Executive Mansion the day of his inauguration, portrayed her in his testimony as a harridan whose yelling left him “spiritually and mentally exhausted,” and who was so cold that after he sent her an email pleading to save their marriage, she did not reply.

BOBBY. FOR SHAME. You made the New York Times editors break out the word “harridan.” They probably nearly asphyxiated from the dust of opening their expanded-volume dictionary just to find that word which could so perfectly summarize your cold-hearted view of your longtime wife and the mother of your five children.

BOBBY, I HAD TO LOOK THAT WORD UP JUST TO READ ABOUT YOUR DEFENSE. That is how mean you were to your wife.

And how, pray tell, did you brace yourself for your multitudinous convictions, good sir?

Leaving the courthouse at midday Tuesday once the jury began deliberations, Mr. McDonnell said the past 18 months had been tough on his family, but he said he drew strength from his 38 years of marriage and the five children he shared with his wife. “I think we’re stronger than we’ve ever been.”

And the shackles of their love will only grow in strength, no doubt, while they are both shackled in respective Federal prisons. Being apart from an unloving, backstabbing, corrupt spouse can only make the heart grow fonder. That’s in Proverbs.

1 felony count, ahahah, 2 felony counts, ahahah …

Bob-McDonnell-by-Gage_SkidmoreLess than two weeks after turning over the keys to the governor’s mansion, Republican former Virginia Governor and presidential once-hopeful Bob McDonnell and his wife were indicted by a Federal grand jury on 14 felony counts.

They somehow managed to run afoul of the (Federal) law, despite their own state’s virtually non-existent ethics laws. Their crimes generally all relate to a scandal involving accepting — or rather actively soliciting — huge gifts from a political donor so the McDonnells could continue living the high life even after their investment portfolio collapsed.

They hadn’t even taken office before the shenanigans began (despite repeated warnings from staffers), and they likely wouldn’t have even gotten charged with anything if they had just disclosed it, but they knew it was too politically damaging to admit.

So, charged they were — and how.

…former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and his wife Maureen were indicted on 14 felony charges on Tuesday. The indictments centered around tens of thousands of dollars worth of gifts received by the couple from a wealthy tobacco executive.

In what Republican state legislator Bob Marshall called the “type of activity” that “undermines public confidence,” McDonnell and his family allegedly accepted more than $135,000 in gifts and/or loans from Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the then-CEO of Star Scientific Inc. The McDonnells then helped promote the scientifically-unproven dietary supplements line made by thecontroversial tobacco company-turned-supplements manufacturer. While Virginia’s lax gifts law allows elected officials to accept unlimited gifts — even from lobbyists and those with business before the state — McDonnell apparently failed to fully disclose what he and his wife received.

The gifts included a silver Rolex watch, golf clubs, Louis Vitton shoes, and $15,000 to help pay for the McDonnells’ daughter’s wedding. According to the indictment, the former governor and his wife conspired to commit wire fraud to accept bribes, knowingly made false statements on loan applications to avoid reporting the Williams loans, and obstructed justice.

Great job to the Washington Post for pushing relentlessly to expose this story. And now — since this is one of those scandals that probably didn’t really truly hurt anyone — the fun begins, particularly because Bob McDonnell was not well liked by much of the nation for his (and his party’s legislative members’) support for aggressive counter-abortion laws, such as the proposed mandatory, highly invasive early ultrasound.

From the trolling Brits on the other side of the Atlantic — who had their own major gifts/expenses scandal a few years ago, involving many members of parliament — comes this delightful take (The Guardian):

This Oscar de la Renta dress costs $12,590, which is just a fraction of the $140,805.46 in luxury gifts federal authorities say former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, took from a wealthy businessman.

We tried to online shop our way to the $140,000 mark, but we fell short.


We also learned all kinds of crazy (alleged) things about the McDonnells in the text of the indictment. Top line version below, details within:

1. It All Started With An Inauguration Dress
2. The McDonnells Were Deeply In Debt
3. Bob McDonnell Allegedly Knew About The First Big Loan From Williams
4. But Some Of Williams’ Help May Have Come As A Surprise
5. Bob McDonnell Asked For $20,000 Via A Text Message
6. People Discussed Using [State] Employees As Dietary [Supplement] Guinea Pigs
7. Bob McDonnell Told Virginia Officials That He Took Anatabloc
8. Maureen McDonnell Allegedly Lied To Law Enforcement


The Feds were even willing to offer an extremely generous — perhaps overly so — deal to former Gov. McDonnell that would have protected his wife entirely, even though she seems to have orchestrated much of the corruption and solicitations. All he had to do was plead guilty to one felony count and serve time (probably very little considering who he is). Yet he said no.

All I know is this:
I love it when a Virginia Republican scandal comes together.

Oh, and a word to the wise for successor Governor Terry McAuliffe: Given your own shady ethics, don’t forget to declare the gift you received from the McDonnells when they left.


For our initial coverage of the scandal in July 2013, listen to AFD Episode 50 – Ethics, Efficacy, Insurance.

AFD Ep 50 – Ethics, Efficacy, Insurance

Latest Episode:
“AFD Ep 50 – Ethics, Efficacy, Insurance”
Posted: Tues, 23 July 2013

Bill and guest co-host Sarah discuss Virginia ethics scandals, Alan Grayson’s effectiveness, John Boehner’s ineffectiveness, Indiana’s insurance rates, and Arizona’s expansion of Medicaid.